BC FORUM News - from the Autumn 2017 issue of The Advocate
Standing up for ordinary people
By Diane Wood President, BC FORUM
A recent survey found that almost half of Canadian workers are overwhelmed by the cost of living and would be in trouble if their paycheque were delayed by even one week.
The Canadian Payroll Association found that 47 percent of the employees they surveyed were living paycheque to paycheque, with no reserves for unexpected expenses.
Retirees were not surveyed, but I have no doubt the picture is much the same for us. Unavoidable costs keep mounting while income stagnates.
Many of our children and grandchildren are struggling in precarious, low-paying jobs while seniors stretch their own limited financial resources to lend them a hand.
Against this background, the actions being taken by our new provincial government are a welcome source of relief.
Already, Premier John Horgan has travelled to Ottawa and Washington to promote and defend our forest industry, now threatened by huge duties on exports to the US. The softwood lumber agreement expired under Christy Clark’s watch, but she never found the time to make that effort.
The future of so many families and communities is directly tied to the health of our forest industry. Our government must continue to fight to defend their interests.
In their short time in office, the government has announced many more initiatives that make it clear their first priority is people, not wealthy corporate donors.
Since they took office in mid-July, the government has:
• Reaffirmed their commitment to increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
• Removed the tuition from adult basic education and English language training programs so people held back by lack of funds will have a new chance to get ahead.
• Waived post-secondary tuition for foster children, for whom the government is parent, and promised more steps to support these vulnerable children as they age out of care.
• Eliminated bridge tolls. This saves Port Mann commuters $1,500 a year, removes a barrier to wider job searches, and puts all British Columbians on an equal footing in respect to how we pay for needed infrastructure.
• After a decade long freeze by the previous government, increased welfare and disability rates by $100 a month.
• Committed to bringing forward a comprehensive poverty reduction plan to lift children and families out of poverty, an area where B.C. has long had the worst record in the country.
• Referred the Site C megaproject to the Public Utilities Commission to review its impact on the bills we pay as BC Hydro customers – again, something the previous government refused to do. (See our story on page 9.)
• Limited ICBC basic insurance premium increases to 6.4 percent. Some reports have suggested we could have been in for a 42 percent increase to cover rising costs and the $1.2 billion the BC Liberals transferred from ICBC to general revenue.
• Announced that the BC Human Rights Commission will be re-established to fight discrimination and help ensure that all British Columbians are treated equally. (See our story on page 13.) All of these actions and more were taken as the province worked with other governments and organizations to cope with a months long state of emergency, battling to save lives, homes and communities that were hit by the worst wildfire season on record.
All in all, it is a very promising beginning by a government that ordinary people are counting on to stand up for them.